Hurtful criticisms are like arrows that pierce us just where we’re most vulnerable at. If given by people closest to us, they hurt even deeper and echo at the back of our minds long after they’ve been said. What must we do to handle criticisms that hurt us and degrade our self-esteem?
1. Understand that not everything that people say against you is really about you. Oftentimes, it is more about themselves.
If you are familiar with the Bible story about Martha and Mary, you may recall how Martha criticized the action of her sister:
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” –Luke 10:38-42
It wasn’t because Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus that Martha criticized her. It was because Martha was “worried and upset about many things”. Martha was afraid she will not be able to meet the expectations of Jesus and the disciples. Martha was also frustrated that even if she is already exerting so much in what she’s doing, nobody notices her efforts, not even Jesus! Maybe if Jesus just showed up where she was working and praised her for all she has done, Martha wouldn’t have asked for her sister’s help at all. She would have been satisfied claiming all the credits for herself! But that’s not the way it happened. She received no praise nor reward, and it was Mary who got the attention of Jesus by sitting and listening at his feet!
Imagine however how Mary must have felt when Martha criticized her infront of Jesus and all the disciples. Imagine hearing these words, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
Martha not only demanded that you help her, you have just been reported to Jesus Himself! If you were Mary, some other words might have also echoed at the back of your mind, words like: how lazy and uncaring a sister you’ve been, how worthless and unreliable you are, or even how unworthy you are to even deserve to be in the presence of Jesus.
The truth stands however, as affirmed by Jesus Himself, that Martha’s criticism of Mary is not a reflection of Mary’s deficiencies, but of Martha’s own problems and concerns.
We don’t see things as THEY ARE, we see things as WE ARE. – Anais Nin
2. Remember that not all people filter out what they say and really mean what they say.
Not everyone is concerned about what they’re saying or even how they’re saying it. Not all people think first before saying something. As a result, they may say things that hurt other people, things they would later on regret or want to take back.
People are also not always concerned about how they may affect the feelings of other people. They think about themselves most of the time and may rarely have you in their agenda.
As such, remember to not always take things personally. People don’t always intend to cause you harm.
“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”- Proverbs 12
3. Learn to forgive others
No matter how people may try to be careful with the words they’re saying, there would come a time when they’d say things that doesn’t sound so pleasant, or even hurting to those around them. Nobody’s perfect, nobody’s able to do the right thing all the time. This is where forgiveness should come in. We should remember our human nature and our flaws, and learn how to move on from there.
I arise from the ashes of doubt, of depression and of
self-pity. I arise a new being –
strong, confident, beautiful and without limits!
4. Learn to identify what’s true and what is not about what is being said
There are some criticisms that could help us improve ourselves and see our blindspots. Our problem is that many of these criticisms contain other remarks that hurt us or are not always true. And because we are hurt, we try to disregard everything that’s been said. We must learn to identify the things that could help us improve ourselves and leave behind those things which have no basis at all.
I am no less of a person by flaws that you see in me;
I am no lesser for I am not those flaws. I know who I am,
my flaws and my strengths,
and there is no better person who can handle me but me.
5. Know that even at your worst day, God still accepts you and loves you as you are
There are some criticisms that hurt us because they contain some semblance of truth about our deficiencies and flaws, things we may be ashamed of or things that we’d rather not reveal for fear of not being accepted and loved.
Know that even at your very worst, God still loves you. His mercy and grace is greater than all your mistakes and deficiencies. His love for you is greater than all the weaknesses you see in yourself.
God does not take us only when we are lovable,
but moreso when we are most in need of love.
6. Know that you have the power to change and to be the best of who you are
Some criticisms seem to tell us how weak we are, as though we’re going to be like that forever. Remember that this is not true! Know that nobody needs to be stuck in their past forever. We can all move on and do something to steer our lives around for the better.
Have you seen a seed? Was it at all that attractive to you?
Wait awhile and see that seed grow. See it bear fruit,
see its flowers bloom. See? I’ve caught you by surprise!
I have just astounded you.
7. Know that you can discover and change your self-talk
There are some criticisms that trigger more hurtful thoughts within us, deeper wounds that have not yet been healed. The reason why some people seem to over-react to certain criticisms is because they are reacting to a far deeper pain, a pain triggered by the criticism just given.
We can discover these wounds by listening to our self-talk whenever we are being criticized. When somebody points out your mistake or says anything bad against you, what are you really hearing?
• I’m rejected, no one really loves me as I am.
• I’m worthless, no one appreciates the things I can do.
• I am being forced to do something against my will.
• A lot is being demanded of me whereas I couldn’t ask for enough help when I need it.
• I’m unprotected; anyone can just boss me around because no one is there to defend me.
Why are you hearing those words? Is it possible to replace them with other thoughts that are more supportive of your self-esteem?
• Instead of saying you’re rejected , say, “God loves me and accepts me as I am, even at my worst day, even if I did the gravest sins. His love for me is greater than all my weaknesses. He never rejects anyone who comes to Him.”
• Instead of saying you’re worthless, say, “God values me. Jesus died on the cross just to give me eternal life and happiness. “
God loves me, unconditionally. And for me,
He leaves the 99 sheep behind so He can find me
and make me realize just how much I matter,
just how much I am loved.
• Instead of saying, you are being forced to do something, say, “God has given me freewill. Nobody can force me to do anything against my will.”
• Instead of saying, you couldn’t ask for help, say, “Help will come when I need it. I need not always do things on my own, for God’s help is always there for the taking. I only need to receive by faith what is being given me.”
Heaven is knowing deep in your soul how you were
conceived and how you were bathed in loved. It is tapping
unto the endless reserve of mercy and grace when shadows
come looming over you.It is knowing that however great
the challenges ahead seem to be,
there is a Higher Power that will see you through.
• Instead of saying you’re unprotected, say, “God is making me stronger everyday to face the challenges coming my way. Where I am not strong enough, God will be my Defender against all those who want to cause me harm.”
There was a time when I couldn’t forgive myself,
that time when the burden of guilt was multiplied a hundred
times more by the world that knew nothing but condemn
those who are already down. But now is not that time,
for it has long come to pass. Now is the time of acceptance,
of love, and of believing in myself despite whatever
accusations others may try to pass against me.